With millions of dollars in revenue at stake, for-profit colleges and their supporters have flooded the Education Department with tens of thousands of comments opposing its proposed "gainful employment" rule.
During a 60-day public-comment period that ended last week, the department received more than 83,000 comments from opponents and supporters of the proposed rule, which would cut off federal student aid to programs whose students have high debt-to-income ratios and low loan-repayment rates. Many came from students and faculty members of for-profit colleges, and many were submitted through Web sites offering pre-crafted letters.
An Education Department spokesman said the influx of comments represents a record for higher-education rule making.
In contrast, in 2007, during a controversial rule making on student-loan issues, the department received only 323 comments. A 2008 rule making that created an income-based repayment plan for student loans and expanded student-loan forgiveness generated 1,832 comments. And last year's rule making on a hodgepodge of topics stemming from the renewal of the Higher Education Act yielded only 358 comments.